After the Election

Stuart Davies, 12.05.2010
As the new government beds in, our thoughts at the Museums Association have been focusing on what key messages need to be communicated to those in power. There are many views but these are some of the ones I think most important.

We need to emphasise that the museum nation is an inclusive and accessible one. Not all that glitters is in a handful of museums and art galleries in London. The material cultural heritage of the UK is spread (albeit perhaps unevenly) across the whole country.

This national heritage is a single distributed national collection found in hundreds of different places in as many different organisations and governance arrangements.

We should also champion the strengths of the nation states and the English regions. These have laid the foundations for powerful networked communities of museums which are continuously improving the value they provide for visitors and – through collaborations and partnerships – the intellectual, educational and recreational value for money they are able to deliver for the taxpayer and commercial or individual sponsors.

In England, Renaissance in the Regions remains the strongest and most important vehicle for ensuring the recent turnaround in the public value of museums. The Renaissance brand is still strong and I hope this will not be lost by bringing in change for change’s sake.

The Hubs have been reviewed and need attention. But whether any of the suggested alternatives - such as ‘core museums’ or ‘national museums in the regions’ - are better still has to be proven.

Nor must we allow the new government to forget that museums often make a serious contribution to local community wellbeing. Most museums are not directly affected by those big issues debated around Westminster and Whitehall.

They are rooted in their local communities and count their value – among other things - in terms of individual lives enhanced, the tourist pound and the heritage preserved for the benefit of all. They conserve, sustain and communicate the richness of our shared past.

Comments

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Anonymous
MA Member
14.05.2010, 09:05
Agree with all this but if the non nationals are to fulfil their roles of partnership with other bodies, including the nationals, and as act as the regional and community resources they should be, then they need to have enough capacity. They are fulfilling thier potential now but this has been made possible in most places by Renaissance in the Regions. Take it away or cut it back severely and the capacity is reduced and comunities are the losers.

We have to retain a decently funded Renaissance in the Regions.
12.05.2010, 15:12
Agreed. We will be letting everyone know who the culture secretary will be as soon as that is announced, and posting details of the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition's plans for culture as they become clearer. Meanwhile the MA will continue to campaign on behalf of museums and galleries across the UK, raising the important issues for the sector with the new administration.